Describing a New Fish Species
|Roger Bills collects an |
undescribed fish species.
During the expedition, the fish team caught a number of specimens of an Aplocheilichthys species. To their knowledge, the species has never been described scientifically.
I thought it would be interesting to learn about the process that will be undertaken after the expedition to make this species formally known to the rest of the scientific community.
Ben van der Waal and Denis Tweddle walk me through the various steps below:
If a fish is caught and cannot be identified in a field guide, you should:
- Consult an expert. The JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology has the largest collection of southern African freshwater fish and is a great resource.
- If they can confirm that the fish has never been described, then you go about the process of describing it in detail. You will ideally need 30 specimen with
a full range of both sexes to do this.
|Measuring a Thinface Largemouth |
- Take detailed color notes of live fish and of the pigmentation of preserved specimen.
- Take detailed measurements of all characteristics of the fish (e.g. body length, head, eyes, etc).
- Count the scales along several areas of the body and the number of fin rays.
- Count the number of teeth, their type, shape and location.
- Compare the fish with descriptions of other related fish. It is possible to get a loan of these specimen to do the proper measurements.
- Submit specimen to a recognized museum such as the JLB Smith Institute for reference keeping purposes.
If you can show that your fish is distinct from the related ones, then you:
- Write a paper describing what you have found, that can be published in a scientific journal. Include information on the habitat where it was found and anything you might know about its behavior. You must include full color pictures and anatomical drawings noting the distinctions in your fish. The museum's reference number for the fish must be included in the paper.
- Choose a relevant latinized name that says something about the fish or describes its distinguishing characteristics. You may also choose to name the fish after a person, place or local name for the fish.
- Start writing your own fish field guide!
– Reported by Sharon Safran
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